November and June internationals as we know it may cease to exist with proposals over a World League suggested recently by vice-chairman Agustin Pichot, a 12-team annual tournament which would take place in November.
But in the meantime the World Rugby Executive Committee are in Sydney discussing the proposed changes agreed as part of the San Francisco Accord which will see international windows between northern and southern hemisphere teams switched to July and maintained in November.
The governing body citing the importance of “enhancing the competitiveness of international rugby between Rugby World Cups within the 2020-32 calendar framework”
The governing body believe it’s a chance to increase TV revenue and also appealed to the non-Tier 1 nations by saying it was “furthering competition opportunities for emerging rugby nations and player welfare key considerations”.
The RFU has welcomed progress to the San Francisco Accord, with them concerned that the Pichot proposal could hit them financially, as they’re believed to earn around £10m per match from hosting matches at Twickenham,
A spokesperson for the RFU gave this reaction to RugbyPass: “The World Rugby Exco met this morning have provided strong assurances that the global calendar agreement in San Francisco still stands and is the fixed framework for any further discussions around the international game.
“We are pleased that the framework we’ve all agreed is firmly in place and we will be part of any discussions to see if there are ways in which the international game could be ore competitive and exciting whilst retaining the unwavering commitment to player welfare. These will be early stage discussions and we will see what comes out of them”
In a statement World Rugby said: “Within a week of highly-productive meetings in Sydney, the World Rugby Executive Committee reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring the international game is as attractive, competitive and valuable as possible heading into the next decade, while maintaining an unwavering focus on player welfare.
“With the San Francisco accord delivering long-term calendar stability between 2020-32, the international federation has begun exploring within that framework ways to inject further significance and excitement into the July and November windows and optimise the commercial model for all.
“International rugby is the sport’s global shop window, financial engine and catalyst behind a 28 per cent surge in fan-base interest driven by younger audiences in emerging rugby markets such as Brazil, China, India and the USA. There are currently 338 million fans and 9.2 million players worldwide, and next year Asia will host its first Rugby World Cup, demonstrating the significant opportunity that exists for the international game to broaden its footprint.”
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “Building on the solid foundations of the San Francisco calendar agreement, I believe that the time is right and the opportunity exists to do something really impactful that injects further excitement, significance and value into international rugby between Rugby World Cups for the benefit of all.
“In line with this objective, we are examining models to maximise the potential of the July and November windows without changing the framework of the San Francisco agreement, and create an annual programme of meaningful matches that will unlock new markets, attract new fans and grow commercial revenues for all, while maintaining player welfare imperatives.
“While these are early days, initial discussions this week with my Executive Committee colleagues have been highly-productive and I would like to thank them for their full cooperation and support. This is an important moment for the sport and we must now seize the positive momentum and, working in close partnership with our unions, deliver an outcome that everyone in the game can be proud of and benefit from.”
World Rugby Vice Chairman Agustín Pichot added: “It is critical that we must continually evolve to ensure appeal and relevance within a rapidly-evolving global fan, broadcast and commercial environment.
“The strategies that we have been exploring set out to do just that, providing a potential blueprint for essential growth, furthering opportunities for emerging nations and growing commercial value for all.”
A World Rugby professional game committee will now be convened, comprising all tier one and several two representatives to progress the discussions in a collaborative and consultative manner. This group will report to the World Rugby Executive Committee.
The Executive Committee also approved a professional game forum to be convened annually comprising union, club and player representatives to discuss matters of mutual interest.
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